Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Maruti 800 nostalgia post

Back in the 80s, one of my closest friends was Rajesh. He was a stock brocker. Or, to be more specific, a species known as 'sub-broker', with the right to go into the ring and trade on the out-cry based trading floor. The basis for our friendship was  that I used to consider myself a shrewd investor (until I craftily invested all my money away) and Rajesh was the chap who would execute my orders.

Rajesh was passionately interested in money. He would spend every waking moment thinking of money and let no opportunity pass of making some, regardless of how ridiculous or unethical it might be. Applying fraudulently for student discounts on air-fares on the erstwhile Indian Airlines, booking flats meant for poor people and profiteering on them, selling Amway subscriptions, he did them all. He called himself a moral agnostic (his interpretation of which was that he did not believe in the existence of right and wrong) but despite all that, (or, more likely, because of it) was good fun to hang out with.

One day, he announced happily that he had got an allotment for a Maruti 800. We were overjoyed. "When are you getting it?" asked Sameer, another of our faithful band of devotees

"Getting it? I'm not getting it. I'm selling the allottment. The going rate is 50,000"

There was a collective sigh of disappointment. "Buy, man. It is such a fantastic car. What will you do with another 50000? " someone advised, but without much hope, because we knew Rajesh was a hardboiled egg.

So you could have knocked me down with a feather when the next morning, I got a call from Rajesh, asking me if I could drive. Apparently, he wanted to go pick up the car, the change of heart effected by his blushing bride Kamala, who expressed a desire to own one.

I couldn't drive, alas. The simultaneous control of the steering wheel and the bunch of pedals below was too much for my rudimentary thinking equipment at that point in evolution. It was only after the missus entered my life and taught me how, did I manage to make a car move without causing damage to life and property.

It turned out that none of our trusted band of friends knew how to drive a car.

"Kamala knows, no?" asked Madhukar

"Kamala has a drivers licence, yes, but I don't think she knows how to drive a Maruti 800"

"A car is a car, man, lets take her and go pick the car"

"Yes yes, lets"

Rajesh was still hesitant, but he decided to ask Kamala.

Kamala was a little reluctant. "I'm not very sure..." she said "I got my licence because the police inspector was my classmate's father. I've driven my dad's Fiat though"

"Driven a Fiat, no? Then no problem" was the general consensus and Kamala and Rajesh went to pick the car, with four of us in tow.

The showroom person laconically zipped out full speed in reverse with the car, making our collective hearts leap, and stopped it where we stood. Rajesh and Kamala did a little namaskar and Kamala put a red tilak on the dashboard and the hood. We got in, the four of us behind, Rajesh on the front seat and Kamala behind the wheel.

The car started, most eerily for that age, in one turn of the key. Most Fiats of that generation wouldn't sputter to life without the starter making sounds for several minuters like Navjot Singh Sidhu laughing.

Kamala shifted into the first gear and the car leaped forward. After a few dorso-ventral oscillations, the vehicle achieved a reasonable steady state and Kamala drove with something approaching confidence. Then, the road turned, but for some reason, Kamala didn't. The car headed straight towards a lamp post. "Khambo aave che!" yelled out Kamala, lapsing, in the panic, into her native Gujarati (it means "the lamp-post is coming at me"

"Do something! Do something!" squealed Rajesh

"Khambo aave che!" Kamala reiterated



observed the rest of the company and the car finally stopped against the lamp post. The front grill, the bumper, the radiator, a substantial part of the steering assembly and the blood pressures of the six of us went for a toss

Rajesh was the picture of calm. He comforted a near hysterical Kamala and soon had everything under control. The insurance company very sportingly agreed to pick up the tab and all was well.